Skip to main content

The Roots of White Male Rage Lie In The Irresponsible Defense of Brett Kavanaugh

Being a white male in America means never having to take responsibility for anything. Ever.

Salon's Lili LoofBourow has a particularly brutal takedown of the ongoing hysteria overtaking men during the Kavanaugh rape scandal. In it, she marvels to see men move beyond just pretending rape culture isn't real to flat out saying we should accept it as perfectly normal:

We knew this moment would arrive when the #MeToo movement began. It was clear that men and women were universally comfortable with the movement as long as its targets were unregenerate monsters like Harvey Weinstein, and it was just as clear that the tides would shift once attention expanded to the scope of what women routinely put up with. Eventually, as I wrote then, there would be an attempt to “naturalize sexual harassment. If there are this many men doing these things, then surely this is just how men are!”

But I never imagined it would get this explicit. I never thought I would see a group that has spent years laughing at the very idea of anything like “rape culture” suddenly not just admitting that it exists but arguing that it should—nothing should be done about it; male malfeasance is an unstoppable cocktail of culture and biology. The subtext—stripped of all chivalric pretense thanks to the recent panic—is that victims don’t matter. They’re invisible because they’re unimportant, and women’s pain is irrelevant.

What she's talking about is the conga line of scum, mostly from the right, telling us that, well, sometimes teenage boys try to rape girls and the men they grow to be shouldn't be penalized for it. Partly they're doing this in their desperation to seat Kavanaugh, a far-right extremist, who will then help an activist conservative majority on the Supreme Court enact the right wing agenda; essentially ruling by judicial fiat long after the GOP is out of power.

Loofburouw looks at this craven phenomena from the angle of #MeToo and she's absolutely right to. But I saw something broader than just men excusing the sexual assault of "boys" in order to protect their right to continue sexually abusing women as adults; I saw the roots of white male rage.

“Boys will be boys” is a nostrum with the designated purpose of chalking male malfeasance up to innocent high spirits. It’s a saying that meant to exonerate, but here’s the funny thing: It only works on the agreed-upon assumption that boys do shitty things, the gravity of which we’re supposed to ignore or dismiss. The message isn’t that the boys don’t know that the things they do are bad; it’s rather that the rest of us should forgive, understand, and love them anyway, without their needing to ask for it.

Being as this is America, I don't really have to explain to you that "Boys will be boys" doesn't actually apply to anyone but white boys, do I? I didn't think so. That's not to say that black rapists don't get away with it most of the time because they do, but we never see society leap to their defense the way it does white men (with the sole exception being if they're black athletes or celebrities).

No, when white men are accused of rape, not only are they presumed innocent no matter how damning the accusation and evidence, we find a million excuses why they shouldn't be punished. This gets worse when Affluenza or politics is mixed in but even without it, white men are coddled at every step of the process when accused of rape. 

And this is where white male rage comes into play. This coddling is of a piece with everything else in their lives telling them that they are untouchable; that they are never responsible for their actions. And, worse, when they are held responsible, it's the most unfair thing in the world:

Many of us have been trained from birth to believe that men (unlike women) are long-suffering and stoic. That means that their pain, when they do express it, strikes us as almost holy. It took me decades to realize that something like the opposite is true: It’s not that men’s pain isn’t real; it’s that our culture vastly overestimates it. A certain kind of man not getting exactly what he wants, precisely when he wants it, will truly believe he’s suffering more than a woman in pain who has never been told that what she wants might matter. While this doesn’t make him a liar, it does limit him and blind him to those limits.

"A certain kind of man not getting exactly what he wants, precisely when he wants it, will truly believe he’s suffering." I almost choked on my drink when I read that. Without meaning to, Loofbourow summed up in just a few words the root of all white male rage. When they can't get laid, they go on a shooting spree. When they lose a tournament, they go on a shooting spree. When they feel threatened by a black president, they go on a shooting spree. When they realize that they're no longer the center of all creation, they literally turn their back on their religion and belief in democracy to become white nationalist fascists who torture children for fun. And then they go on a shooting spree.

This "suffering" that white men experience at the slightest set back is what the rest of the world calls "life" and white men are uniquely deprived of the capacity to deal with it. Thus, when they don't get what they want, when they want it, they way they want it, they lash out in a blind rage at the source of their imaginary persecution, whether it be women, Latinos, blacks, Jews, the poor (but never the rich), the liberal media, etc. There's always a villain to blame and it's never themselves.

The biggest difference is that now, as Loofbourow states, they're openly calling for their special status to be codified. "Boys will be boys", white nationalism, it's the same thing as far as white men are concerned. It's a demand for power without accountability at the expense of everyone that's not part of the club; the last temper tantrum of a child who's finally starting to be disciplined after years of terrible behavior.

Everyone has to grow up eventually and the clock is ticking for white men. The only question is how many people will die in the inevitable epidemic of shooting sprees.